STEVE GORDON: MAN OF MANY TALENTS
His Passions Fit Together Like Pieces of a Puzzle.
Story by Cara Pesek
Photography by Hooton Images
Steve Gordon's sunglasses, like many things he wears, are customized.
They started out as a pair of bamboo frames, painted red.
Gordon liked them, but they weren't quite right. So using a Dremel tool and a steady hand, he carefully removed the paint to expose the grain of the bamboo. He snapped a photo on Instagram and tagged Rogue Eyewear, the designer of the frames. He ended up collaborating with the company to create a new pair.
This is often the way things work for Gordon, who founded the branding and consulting firm RDQLUS Creative eight-and-a-half years ago. After several years of working in corporate marketing and graphic design, he went out on his own. He has since worked nationally with MSN, ABC and T-Mobile, and locally with Batch-At-A-Time Granola and River City Social Club, among other clients.
Gordon also designs sweatshirts, T-shirts, scarves and other casual apparel that veers a bit more tailored and understated than the street wear and athletic clothing that inspires many of his designs.
Gordon himself tends to favor a tailored-meets-athletic-wear look, which is a nod to the 39-year-old Omaha native's other life.
In high school at Creighton Prep, Gordon was a standout jumper on the track team. He continued his track career in college, first at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and later at the University of South Dakota. After college, he competed nationally and internationally until an injury sidelined him in the mid-2000s. Since then, he has continued to work with promising young track-and-field athletes as a coach for Omaha-based Tachyon Athletik.
Gordon practices with the kids he coaches, and he still runs and works out and identifies himself as an athlete. His background, along with his 200-pound, 6'3” frame and African-American heritage, make him stand out in the world of design, he says. And his clothing reflects those attributes.
“I don't want to not tell people that story,” he says.
To Gordon, the worlds of track and branding are not so different. Both are about solving puzzles, he says.
Gordon realized that he was a fast runner when he raced some other little kids after church one Sunday in north Omaha where he grew up. As he dashed around with the other kids, he spotted his mom headed in his direction with a look on her face that meant he was in trouble. Another woman from church intercepted her and suggested that she enroll Gordon in an
after-school track program.
Gordon was fast, but he quickly learned that field events held a greater appeal. He particularly enjoyed the challenge of the long, high and triple jumps. Figuring out the technique and perfecting the execution excited him as much as the athleticism that the sport required.
His grandfather ran a garage, which fascinated Gordon as a kid (He still likes to work on cars). In school, he liked math and science.
He found that he relished the solitary aspect of track – the idea that his event was riding entirely on his shoulders. “It was an individual sport where I could lend myself to the team,” he says.
Track led him to design; had Gordon not attended college on a track scholarship, he doubts he would have attended at all. He studied architecture at UNL. He switched his focus to graphic design at the University of South Dakota, which didn't offer architecture as a major.
The right logo, the right branding, the right colors for a given client – figuring those things out was another kind of puzzle, Gordon says. And the field was changing quickly at the time. Companies were beginning to hire in-house designers instead of outsourcing projects to marketing firms. Branding was becoming more important.
So since college – on and off the track – Gordon has solved puzzles. His days are dedicated to finding the right words, the right art and the right audience. They are also dedicated to helping kids at Omaha's Westside High School find the right training regime, the right technique and, if all goes well, success.
That's the most rewarding part. “There are very few things that bring me to tears,” Gordon says. “Seeing my kids excel is one of those things.”
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